Professor Joseph Jacobson

Recent Advances in CRISPR Technology for Human Genome Editing and Their Ethical/Halachic Implications 

The human genome comprises some 3 billion nucleotide letters and codes for the full set of human proteins whose interaction in turn is deterministic of the vast majority of human traits.   The discovery in the last several years of the CRISPR system in bacteria and it subsequent application to human cells[1] represents the first easily programmable means for editing of the human genome. Recent advances in CRISPR [2] have significantly expanded the number of genes, and thus traits, that can now be edited.  These developments bring in to focus, even more sharply, the need to have comprehensive ethical/halachic guidelines on the use of this technology in living systems.

In this talk we detail both the structure of the existing human genome and human genome diversity as well as recent advances in CRISPR technology for editing the human genome and how the human genome may be edited and transformed in the near to medium future. We then discuss the ethical/ halachic implications of genome editing including Kilayim and issues of safety (Sakana).

[1] Cong, Le, et al. “Multiplex genome engineering using CRISPR/Cas systems.” Science (2013): 1231143.[2] Chatterjee, Pranam, Noah Jakimo, and Joseph M. Jacobson. “Minimal PAM specificity of a highly similar SpCas9 ortholog.” Science advances 4.10 (2018): eaau0766. Expanding the reach of gene editing with a new CRISPR enzyme, FierceBiotech October 24, 2018